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This Covid-19 superhero needs no cape7 min read

June 18, 2021 5 min read

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This Covid-19 superhero needs no cape7 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Srini carries relief material to those in need at the railway station in Chennai.

Srini Swaminathan, a social development consultant from Chennai, has had a busy year. Disturbed by the plight of those less fortunate amid this pandemic, Srini decided to dive in to help as many people as he could by providing them with essentials, drinking water and other relief items.

Owliver caught up with this good samaritan as part of this week’s Trailblazer column. Here’s what he had to say..

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

A good samaritan is someone who helps another is distress. But did you know that this term has a whole story behind it? It is actually based on a story in the Bible called the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This story is all about helping anyone who needs it, despite their circumstances, background and your opinion of them.

How he got into social work.

Hailing from an economically-disadvantaged (low-income) family, education changed my life path and got me better opportunities. Hence, I have nurtured the flame of service in my heart for a long time. When I started working, I began to donate to various causes, including helping children get an education. When I turned 30, I decided to get into social development projects full-time. I started by becoming a teacher at a local municipal school in Mumbai in 2010.

What is social development?

Social development is about improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential. The success of society is linked to the well-being of every citizen. 

What inspired him to help during the pandemic?

Volunteers distribute food to labourers going back to their hometowns.

When the lockdown was announced in India, we saw millions of people suffer due to lack of social security, loss of income due to loss of jobs and other such reasons. When I saw that thousands of migrant workers and their families were suffering due to pandemic-related issues, I could not sit quietly in the safety and comfort of my home. I felt that it was my duty to offer some comfort and relief to them. I strongly believe that we are all ‘migrants’. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, just ‘us’. So, I decided to raise money to offer them food kits for their long journeys back home.

Wait…let’s rewind a bit….

Last year when the national lockdown was announced, numerous daily-wage labourers left the cities they had moved to for work in an attempt to get home. With industries and businesses shutting down, public transport off the roads and no money, these labourers and their families had to travel thousands of kilometres to reach home. This also led to a massive spread of the virus, as people carried it with them to their hometowns.

Children hold toys and milk distributed by Srini and his team of volunteers.

The different initiatives he took up during the pandemic.

Since May 2020, I have been taking up the following services:

  • Offered food, water, ginger tea, dry ration, sanitary pads, toys and milk for children.
  • Distributed provision kits to families in Chennai and in the villages of Rajasthan to help them sustain themselves.
  • Offered food and water to those affected by cyclones and the pandemic in Chennai.
  • Online fund raising for various people belonging to low-income communities who lost their jobs.

He was named a Covid Soldier for his efforts by The Better India. How did he feel?

I was happy to be recognised and appreciated for my seva. It made me understand that I must use this recognition to amplify my Covid-19 relief services.

On the power of social media during the pandemic.

It is easy to amplify anything on social media (SM). In the last few years, SM has been used negatively to spread fear and hatred, but I firmly believe that love will defeat hatred. We must keep telling stories of love and service via social media. In my work, I believe in this mantraShow up, serve, share. I keep doing this even if I do not get any likes or comments because sharing these stories consistently is important – whether or not there is an audience.

A list of the Srini’s accomplishments:

  • Raised over Rs 40 lakh for Covid relief.
  • Provided 1,00,000 food kits and 70,000 water bottles.
  • Provided 1,200+ toys for children of migrant workers.
  • Provided 35,000+ cups of ginger tea to migrant workers waiting at railway stations.
  • Supported small local vendors.

How did Srini and his team of volunteers stay safe while continuing their good work?

Volunteers of all ages wear masks and gloves while carrying out relief measures.

I strictly followed all Covid safety protocols as advised by the World Health Organisation, and the local government to protect myself and others. I did not compromise or take any shortcuts. I also ensured that my team of volunteers adhered to Covid safety protocols.

Srini serves juice to thirsty travellers going back to their homes.

One big issue, according to him, that came to light during the pandemic.

Covid-19 has exposed the inequities that already existed in India – lack of social security for migrant workers and other daily wage workers. This has led to widespread misery for millions. One-and-a-half years after Covid-19 hit India, the migrant workers are still leaving cities for their home states due to loss of jobs.

Some other social initiatives he is part of.

Apart from Covid, flood and cyclone relief services, I have also been working on initiatives such as night schools run with solar power, rural handicrafts, supporting women artisans, solar electrification of remote villages, bee keeping, rural teacher training and technology solutions for rural NGOs.

His future plans.

I want to offer my services in collaboration with local governments for better management of resources and funds. After all, the government can make things happen at a much larger scale and quicker with their resources and power.

Srini has a special message for anyone who wants to get involved in social work! Watch the video to hear what he has to say…

(Trailblazers 2.0 is a bi-monthly column where we feature inspiring adults who are doing great things, in their own way)

Would you like to nominate someone you know to be featured in this column? Write to us at hello@owliverspost.com with their name, and what makes them a Trailblazer.

Pictures: Srini Swaminathan

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